Protecting our youth and children

This month we focus on the Valley Development Projects (VDP) initiative - this is a registered Non-Profit Organisation operating in Ocean View and Masiphumelele.  It focuses specifically on the protection and development of children and youth, VDP offers a number of services to children, youth and families in these disadvantaged communities.  Through its three main projects, VDP provides early childhood development services, after school care, counselling, awareness raising, parenting support, lifeskills development, statutory intervention and nutritional support.

We interviewed Shirley Dunn, General Manager of the project. 

Tell us how the initiative came about, what is the history?
VDP began in 1989 as a satellite project of Catholic Welfare and Development with the aim of improving the lives of people living in the Ocean View and Masiphumelele communities.  In 1995, VDP became independent and soon thereafter received its own NPO registration.  In recent years, VDP has decided to focus on the protection and development of children and youth in these disadvantaged communities, using an integrated development approach to combat a number of social issues and alleviate poverty.  

What are your core aims/mission?

  • To reduce the incidences of child abuse and neglect in Ocean View and Masiphumelele through education, prevention and early intervention.
  • To support parents and foster parents in the care of their children. 
  • To protect, support and assist children who have been orphaned, abused or neglected.
  • To ensure youth at risk to become well balanced members of society.
  • To provide youth and school-going children with life skill development and safe recreational spaces.
  • To provide quality pre-school education for children in Ocean View and Masiphumelele.
  • To provide learning opportunities for children unable to attend pre-school.
  • To enhance the nutritional intake of children in their formative years, and to provide daily nutrition to school-going children.

How do you help out the local communities in Noordhoek?
VDP currently assists the communities of Masiphumelele and Ocean View through three main projects.  These are:

  • The Open Door Social Work Project
  • The Open Door Community Development Project
  • The Early Learning Support Project
The Open Door Social Work Project tackles child abuse and neglect in both Ocean View and Masiphumelele.  A team of eight Social Workers and Auxiliary Social Workers deal with more than 250 cases per month. These cases include counselling with families, children’s court investigations, foster care placements and supervision, behavioural issues, parenting plan mediations, and counselling with regards to substance abuse.  Parent training and support groups are held, and prevention programmes are conducted at the schools. 

The Open Door Community Development Project affords children and youth the opportunity to develop academically, physically, socially and culturally. This is achieved through after-school care, workshops, holiday programmes, excursions, counselling, mentoring and weekly youth group meetings.  The after-school care programme operates daily in Ocean View, enabling 70 children to participate in various life skills and recreational activities and receive assistance with their homework.  Fieldworkers also visit these children and their families, providing a variety of services to improve their quality of life.  In addition, more than 550 children receive a nutritious meal every day from this project in Ocean View, Masiphumelele and Mountain View.  The main funder of the feeding project is the Noordhoek-based Cape Point Vineyards.

The Early Learning Support Project (ELSP) makes early learning a reality to children in their formative years. Two educare centres – Green Curtains Preschool in Ocean View and Masakhane Educare in Masiphumelele are directly managed by the project. 

More than 40 other crèches in Masiphumelele and Ocean View are assisted through a Pre-School Support Programme. ECD training and support is also provided for untrained caregivers working in crèches and home-based facilities. The ELSP’s Family and Community Motivation Project enhances the capacity of 212 parents/caregivers of 240 children in Masiphumelele, who due to poverty, cannot afford to attend the local crèches. Trained Fieldworkers visit parents to teach them how to implement learning at home, using household opportunities.  Fieldworkers also provide these families with a number of other services to help to improve their quality of life.

What can the local community do to help?

Members of the local community can help VDP and its projects in the following ways:

  • People with various skills can volunteer their time and expertise to help the organisation and its projects.
  • Items (such as food, clothing, nappies and toys) can be donated to be used in the projects or distributed to needy clients.  
  • Second-hand items and clothing can be donated to be sold at the VDP Charity Shop in Ocean View (6 Flamingo Road).
  • Monetary donations can be made to the organisation and to any of its projects.
Who is the main driver behind the project? 

The original driver is Sandy Dowling, a Kommetjie resident and social activist.  In fact, the story of VDP began in the mid-1980s when Sandy saw a need to assist the “squatter” communities in Noordhoek, Ocean View and Red Hill.  In addition to helping these communities to negotiate for land, Sandy wanted to help to improve their living conditions and empower the women.  She joined Catholic Welfare and Development (CWD) and in 1989, with the support of CWD, established an advice office in Ocean View and began to work with the disadvantaged communities of the Noordhoek Valley.  VDP was thus established as a project of CWD. 

At the end of 1989, access to the land that is now Masiphumelele was granted to the Noordhoek “squatters” by the government.  Sandy worked closely with the first residents of Masiphumelele, consulting with the women about their needs.  After learning that the women of Masiphumelele, Ocean View and Red Hill wanted to establish pre-schools in their communities, Sandy assisted them to do this.  She then worked through the pre-schools’ management committees to address the women’s needs. CWD purchased land in Masiphumelele and Sandy and her team organised for the Siyakhulisa Community Centre (commonly known as the ‘Pink House’) to be built. Over the years, as the needs arose, VDP established its other projects and programmes.  Sandy left VDP in the late 1990s, but later returned for a while to serve on its Board.  While she is no longer directly involved in VDP, she is a great supporter of the organisation and is pleased with the work that VDP continues to conduct.

For more information please contact Shirley Dunn (VDP Manager) on 021 7857039 / 071 4882440, or at shirleydunn.vdp@gmail.com